Category Archives: News

NEI TEC-Talk Recordings Now Available for Purchase

Natural Encounters, In., Training and Education Center (NEI-TEC) is proud to announce that all the recorded webinar sessions from the first week of “TEC-Talks” are now available for purchase!

If you or anyone else missed out on the “Introductory Week” webinars, they are now available for our special discount of “5 for $25.” This one time purchase will grant access to all 5 webinar sessions indefinitely!

Included in your purchase are the following webinar sessions:

Session 1: Steve Martin (President/CEO, NEI) – The Future of Zoos (Through The Eyes of a Dreamer)

Walt Disney said, “First, think. Second, believe. Third, dream. And finally, dare.”Dreaming is what made Walt Disney so successful, and what helps shape zoological facilities of the future. In this presentation, attendees will learn to create safe zones where daring to act on dreams is supported and nurtured by coworkers and daring to do what’s right instead of what’s convenient is the foundation for high performance teams and optimal animal welfare. Attendees will learn strategies for listening to an animal’s a voice through its body language and empowering animals with control to create exemplary training outcomes and solve behavioral problems, and so much more that leads to enhanced welfare. 

Session 2: Training Panel – Steve Martin, Chris Jenkins (COO, NEI), Ari Bailey (Show Manager, NEI)

Training is one of the most important aspects of animal management and welfare. For this presentation attendees will be encouraged to send in training challenges, training plans, training goals, etc., for the panel members to discuss with science-based approaches to solving problems and creating predictable and reliable behavior outcomes. 

Session 3: Chris Jenkins –Don’t Say Don’t: Moving Past ‘How Do I Stop My Animal From…’

“How do I stop my animal from…?” It’s a common phrase used throughout the zoo and animal training world, and one that unwittingly leads trainers to come up with punishment-based strategies in dealing with their animals’ behavior challenges. This talk will take a look into the challenges associated with training strategies that focus on the reduction or elimination of behaviors, and will outline an alternative strategy that seeks that uses adjustments to the trainer’s behavior, strategies, and environment to empower their animals to choose to do more desirable behaviors instead.

Session 4: Ari Bailey – The Art and Skill of Learning As Humans in the Animal Field 

I find myself consistently surrounded by amazing people with different levels of experience in our field. I have had the opportunity to witness many of these amazing people teach and learn and in turn I have learned from these experiences. By watching others learn, not just new things but new ways to do things they have done before, I have myself become a better learner. Effective learning is a skill and an art and it takes a great teacher to encourage the growth of this skill. It also takes a motivated learner who has the drive to grow this skill. It isn’t always easy to learn, making mistakes is a huge part of the learning process and how you deal with the consequences of those mistakes will shape your future experiences. Sometimes it is easy to forget that the same science we apply to training animals also applies to ourselves and our colleagues. 

Session 5: Dr.Susan Friedman, PhD (Behavior+Works) – What’s Emotion Got To Do With It 

All behavior is emotional. In this talk, participants will learn an important view of emotions that draws on both contemporary neuroscience and behavior analysis. Understanding more about how conditions influence emotions and emotional behavior is both personally empowering and will improve animal welfare, as well.

NEI Presents TEC-Talks – Motivation Week

Welcome to “TEC-Talks”, by the Natural Encounters, Inc. Training and Education Center (NEI-TEC).

Join us on Monday/Wednesday/Friday at 2pm EST for a series of webinars hosted by expert animal trainers on a variety of topics, covering all aspects of animal training and the behavior change of the animals (and humans!) with which we work. This is a great chance to learn and grow alongside some of the industry’s best minds, and get involved in a supportive, vibrant community!


Join us on Monday, March 30th and Wednesday, April 1st for Steve Martin’s two-part talk “What’s The Motivation”, a deep-dive into exploring motivation in animal (and human) learners. On Friday, April 3rd, we’ll wrap up the week with another Training Panel focused on Motivation, featuring Steve Martin, Dr. Susan Friedman, and Chris Jenkins.

“What’s the Motivation?” Parts I and II – Steve Martin

Motivation: It’s often overlooked, but remains a critically important aspect of all training we do. Where some people focus on food as their primary tool for creating motivation, there are actually countless influences on motivation, and food is the last one I consider when designing training plans or going into a training session. This two-part presentation will explore the myriad of motivating operations that affect our training outcomes as well as our ability to reduce problem behavior and to increase desirable behavior and welfare. 

Training Panel – Steve Martin, Dr. Susan Friedman, Chris Jenkins

We’ll wrap up our Motivation Week with this expert panel who will chat and answer attendee-submitted motivation related training challenges and questions. Take this great opportunity to wrap up your week by joining an inspiring and supportive virtual community!

NOTE: If you miss a webinar, don’t worry! Access to the recordings of all three of these webinars will be sent in an email to registrants within 24-48 hours after the Training Panel ends.

RECON Elephant Workshop 2020 – Postponed until further notice

The Recon Workshop hosted by Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, is currently postponed until further notice. Please contact us to placed on our priority mailing list. This will ensure that you will receive an email once new dates are announced.
Thank you for understanding.

Advancing elephant welfare means addressing some big challenges. RECON is the workshop specially designed to help elephant care professionals meet those challenges by improving your knowledge of behavior-change science, exploring complex husbandry practices, and strengthening your training skills. Each day, participants will engage in stimulating lectures with open discussions where your voice will be encouraged and respected, as well as training practice with individualized feedback with elephants and other model species.

Be part of the growing solutions by growing your knowledge and skills.  Join us at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo for a game changing opportunity.

Dates: TBA Continue reading RECON Elephant Workshop 2020 – Postponed until further notice

COVID-19 Precautions

In light of the growing concerns about COVID-19 and our desire to ensure the health and safety of both our attendees and our team, Natural Encounters, Inc. has made the difficult decision to cancel the April 2020 Bird of Prey Workshop. Full refunds will be issued, and all confirmed attendees will be given priority in signing up for our Fall 2020/Spring 2021 offerings.

Ranch Tours have also been suspended for the time being. We are monitoring the situation and are looking forward to having our tour groups return when safety allows.

We hope to see you all at NEI in the future! If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Registration for the Ambassador Animal Training and Welfare Online Course is now OPEN

Ambassador Animal Training and Welfare Online Course Registration is Now OPEN

Summary: This course will address creating positive reinforcement-based programs for ambassador animal collections and producing educational programs that inspire caring and lead to conservation action.

Structure: Four consecutive webinar presentations of 90 minutes each (once each week), followed by 30 minutes of questions & answers and attendee video evaluations. Attendees will have access to a video recording of the webinar after the presentation.

Cost: $400.00 USD

Dates: April 15, 22, 29 and May 6

Time: 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM EST

Registration is now open and class space is limited. Registrations will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information and to register for this course, please visit our webinar page.

NEI-TEC Announcement

Natural Encounters, Inc. is proud to announce the opening of Natural Encounters Incorporated Training and Education Center, NEI-TEC, at our home base in Winter Haven, Florida.

NEI-TEC will offer a wide variety of workshops, symposiums, and retreats focused on animal training and welfare, team performance, and educational program production and development. It will also be the home base for a new series of online web courses which will cover specific topics and audiences within the professional animal care field. Many of these new endeavors will be housed in our new, 6,000 square-foot education center opening in June, 2020.

Web Courses

NEI is embarking on a new educational venture which will allow animal trainers, educators, and caretakers from around the world to participate in a 4-week online course taught by Steve Martin to cover specific topics in the professional animal field in extensive detail. Each week will consist of a live 90-minute lecture, accompanied by 30-minutes of open Q&A between the participants, Steve and other NEI trainers, as well as video evaluations that will allow participants to receive feedback on their own training questions and challenges.

The first course, Ambassador Animal Training and Welfare, will be offered beginning on Wednesday, April 15th, 2020, and will subsequently run each Wednesday for four weeks. This course will address creating positive reinforcement-based programs for ambassador animal collections and producing educational programs that inspire caring and lead to conservation action. The second course, Contemporary Training Applications for Animal Care Professionals, will provide an in-depth look into the artful application of scientific principals of behavior change within zoos, aquariums, and other professional animal care facilities, and more information about dates will be posted soon.

Registration for Ambassador Animal Training and Welfare is now open. Click here for more information.

Note: Class size is limited, and spots will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

Onsite Workshops for 2020:

Dates to be announced soon!

Contemporary Animal Training and Management

Twice-yearly intensive five-day workshop for professional zoo keepers, trainers, and wildlife educators. Featuring daily lectures by Steve Martin and Dr. Susan Friedman about the art of training and the science of behavior change principals, the workshop also includes extensive hands-on training with a variety of animals at the 34-acre training facility.  

The Art of Training

Steve Martin and the senior staff of Natural Encounters, Inc., teach the fine details associated with the application of the scientific principles of behavior change. This once-a-year workshop is open to those with a good grasp on the scientific principles of operant conditioning practices, and will feature an increased emphasis on the high-level mechanical skills, problem solving, and training complex behaviors.

Note: previous attendance at an NEI training workshop, or Dr. Susan Friedman’s LLA course, is a prerequisite for registration for this course.

Contemporary Raptor Training for Professionals

A comprehensive 4-day workshop designed for those who work in a professional capacity with birds of prey and seek to increase their training and management knowledge. This workshop is designed for those with a minimum of 3 years of experience working with raptors, and includes lectures about positive reinforcement-based training techniques, falconry equipment construction and maintenance, and hands-on training sessions with a variety of birds of prey.

Contemporary Companion Parrot Behavior and Training

Twice-yearly intensive 5-day workshop designed for companion parrot owners and caretakers. Featuring daily lectures from senior NEI staff about the art of training and the science of behavior change and daily hands-on training with a variety of macaws and other animals, attendees will have the opportunity to work on both their observational and mechanical skills gaining a better understanding on techniques and problem-solving strategies that can be applied to their birds at home.

Immersion Workshops

Have you attended an NEI workshop and are now ready to take things to the next level? The Immersion Workshop experience is limited to just three student slots per workshop, and is designed to immerse attendees in all aspects of the care, management, training and other conditions of a wide variety of birds and other animals across three intensive days of non-stop training sessions and discussions.

Note: Previous attendance at an NEI training workshop is a prerequisite for registration for this course.

Workshops for 2021 and Beyond:

Many of the extraordinary trainers at Natural Encounters, Inc., will help produce all-new workshops including (but not limited to):

  • Behavior Management Program Design and Development
  • Performance Skills and Engaging Audiences
  • Producing Inspirational Education Programs
  • Creating High Performance Teams
  • Leadership Skills for First-Time Managers

NEI-TEC Faculty

  • Steve Martin, President/Chief Executive Officer (Natural Encounters, Inc.)
  • Dr. Susan Friedman – Behavior Consultant, Behavior+Works LLC; Professor Emeritus, USU
  • Marty MacPhee – Animal Behavior and Guest Experience Consultant
  • Chris Jenkins, CPBT-KA – Chief Operating Officer (Natural Encounters, Inc.)
  • Ari Bailey, CPBT-KA, CPAT-KA – Show Manager (Natural Encounters, Inc.)
  • Amy Fennell, CPBT-KA – Supervisor (Natural Encounters, Inc.)

Natural Encounters Integrates IATCB Certification into Staff Continuing Education Program

Natural Encounters, Inc., is proud to announce the approval of the IATCB certification examination as a continuing education and professional growth opportunity for its staff of trainers. This exam, sponsored by the International Avian Trainers Certification Board, offers trainers a way to gain professional credibility, increase earnings potential, and demonstrate to others in the field that their knowledge of avian care and training has been certified by an impartial, third party organization made up of some of the finest animal trainers in the world.

For more information about the IATCB and the certification process click here. For detailed information about the organization, examination requirements, and test dates, visit the organization’s website at